For better or worse, there are things from your partner's past that have helped shape them into the person they are today. But did you know these things can also shape your future as a couple? Whether we're talking about baggage, or bad habits they've picked up along the way, it can all add up to make things tricky.
"[Your partner] may have learned patterns or behaviors to cope with what [they] went through in the past that are not conducive to maintaining the relationship [you both] want," therapist Jordan Madison, LGMFT, tells Bustle. They might not know how to argue in a healthy way, for example, or express how they feel.
But it's not just about how you two interact that can impact your future. Your partner's past can bring with it toxic family dynamics, problems with exes, and even financial issues that are difficult to deal with. And while none of that has to to tear you apart, it can impact how your relationship feels, and the route it takes going forward.
"It is helpful to be honest with each other about how your past is influencing the relationship and discuss what you two need from each other," Madison says. "Couples therapy is also another way to keep the past from damaging the future, by providing insight and tools."
Read on for some things from your partner's past that may impact your relationship's future, as well as how to deal with it, according to experts.
1. They Had Unhealthy Spending Habits
If your partner has debt, a low credit score, or a tendency to spend money all willy nilly, it can have an impact, especially if you decide to move in together, get married, and/or merge all your finances in the future.
If, for example, your partner doesn't have good credit history, Madison says it can make it difficult for you to rent an apartment together, or buy a car. And if they have a habit of overspending, that has the potential to cause arguments and other issues down the road.
"Finances are one of the main reasons couples split up," Madison says, "so it is definitely something that should be discussed if you two plan on building a future together."
2. They Grew Up In A Toxic Family
If your partner grew up in a dysfunctional family, there's a chance they may bring some of that negativity into your relationship, especially if they haven't made an effort to overcome the toxicity.
"Experiences that we carry from our childhood shape our adult personality and our interpersonal relationships," Irina Baechle, LCSW, relationship therapist and dating coach, tells Bustle. "That is, it is most likely that some hurtful experiences from their childhood resulted in an impaired attachment style, which now handicaps your relationship." And this can play out in the form of unhealthy communication, trust issues, and even controlling behaviors.
Overcoming these issues will take a lot of work on your partner's part, but you can definitely help them rebuild their idea of a relationship. As Baechle says, "This involves facing their past and their pain and learning to accept comfort and support from you."
3. They Have An STI
What your partner did in the past, in terms of their romantic relationships, doesn't really have any bearing on your future. But if they contracted an STI that they may still have, this is something they should share with you.
This can impact your sex life, and your physical health, so it's important to discuss it with each other, Madison says.
While it can be uncomfortable, it's important to talk about your sexual health history, so you can both be on the same page. From there, you can figure out how you plan to move forward, so you can both be on the same page.
4. They Have A Child With Their Ex
While dating someone with kids can be great, having such an intense connection to your partner's past might be trying at times, especially if they went through a divorce. Not only will you be connected to their ex, one way or another, but the rules of their divorce can make your life difficult.
"Your schedules and lifestyle are all subject to the terms of the co-parenting arrangement," Cydney Bulger, a Florida-based divorce attorney, tells Bustle. For instance, they may need to stay local while their kids are growing up, so if you get an offer for the job of your dreams in another state, Bulger says, you and your partner may have some tough decisions to make.
Of course, these things can all be overcome. But it's something you'll need to talk about, and talk about often.
5. They Experienced A Big Trauma
Pretty much everyone's had a trying time or two. But if your partner's been through a particularly traumatic experience, it may impact how they relate to you.
For example, if they experienced a big loss early in life, they may struggle to connect. Or you may find they aren't open to new experiences, because things went awry for them in the past. As Madison says, "They may have unresolved trust issues, paranoia, or countless other trauma symptoms."
That's not to say, though, that a healthy future isn't possible. "Both partners just need to be patient, and willing to discuss the traumas with one another," Madison says. "It also might be helpful to participate in couples therapy, so you two can have a safe space to process emotions and how the trauma is affecting the relationship currently."
6. They Had A Series Of Small Traumas
Even smaller traumas in your partner's past, though, can have an impact on your future. "Most people think of trauma as a major event like death or serious illness but many of us suffered minor traumas as well," Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach, tells Bustle. "These could be things like feeling unseen or heard, having feelings or desires dismissed, not feeling supported in hopes and dreams, etc." This can all affect how your partner operates in your relationship, so it's important to be understanding and patient with them if these things are brought up.
7. They Cheated On Their Ex
"If a person has cheated on their previous partner, they are at a much higher risk of cheating in subsequent relationships," Bill Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, tells Bustle.
And there are quite a few reasons why. As Chopik says, "They might be an unfaithful person in general or they might have more lax attitudes toward commitment or exclusivity in general."
If your partner has a history of cheating, it'll be important to talk about what you expect from your relationship, in terms of what's OK and what isn't. That way, you can both be on the same page going forward.
8. Their Ex Cheated On Them
On the flip side, if your partner was cheated on, there's a chance they're carrying around some pretty heavy baggage.
"Past relationship betrayals can cause us to have trust issues in the present," therapist Irene Schreiner, LMFT, tells Bustle. Your partner might be overly suspicious, if they expect it to happen again. Or they might not want to open up, for fear of being hurt.
While that's totally understandable, it may be necessary to set up healthy boundaries in your relationship, so they know just what to expect, as well as working on building trust between the two of you.
9. They've Never Been Good At Communicating
If your partner has a history of shutting down during conversations, not listening, or keeping things to themselves, there's a chance they might carry on doing so in your relationship, too.
As Chopik says, "If they’ve struggled with becoming committed or communicating affection previously, it’s unlikely that those problems just go away."
Old habits can die hard, but if your partner is willing to make an effort to improve their communication skills, things can work out.
10. They Were Neglected
Was your partner abandoned as a kid? Or have they gone through situations that felt like abandonment? "If a partner has been neglected by others in the past, specifically if it was by their family of origin (the individuals that raised them), this can have a profound affect on how they behave in relationships," counselor Natalie Nesbitt, MS, LPC, NCC, tells Bustle. "Typically those who have abandonment issues also struggle with being too controlling or too passive, have a hard time trusting others, believe they themselves are unworthy of love, and are insecure and self-deprecating." This can be improved in counseling, but may take some time, support, and patience.
11. They Dated A Toxic Person
Even though the past is in the past, if your partner had a tough time with their ex, it could come back to haunt you, relationship expert Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle. This is especially true if their ex was toxic or manipulative, as that person may try to make your relationship difficult. Your partner might also have trust issues as a result, or have a hard time moving on.
But as long as they're willing to make an effort, let go of baggage, and put distance between themselves and their past, these things don't have to hold you back from having a healthy future.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.